Concerns raised about number of Preston schoolchildren who vape

Posted on - 20th July, 2023 - 12:00pm | Author - | Posted in - Politics, Preston News
Vapes are becoming increasingly popular amongst young people across the UK Pic: haiberliu

A Preston councillor has expressed her shock at the number of schoolchildren she sees heading to school with vapes.

The comments came as Lancashire County Council discussed an explosion in vaping amongst 14-17-year-olds in the county.

A recent survey by trading standards in the county revealed that one in six 14-17-year-olds regularly use e-cigarettes – even though it is illegal to sell the products to under-18s or for an adult to buy them on their behalf.

Read more: Hundreds of illegal cigarettes and vapes seized from two Preston shops

The number of vapers in that mid-teens age group has tripled in just three years – and a Lancashire County Council meeting at which the surge in underage vaping was discussed heard that there had been a significant increase in complaints about the unlawful sale of disposable vapes to young people.

Almost half of Lancashire’s under-18s claim never to have smoked a cigarette – but say they have tried a vape.

Preston Rural division representative Sue Whittam said she was “shocked” at the number of youngsters she sees walking to and from school who are vaping.

“Children seem to be able to get hold of them and, more worryingly, manufacturers of the vapes are deliberately targeting young people.

“Just ask Google and you can buy – online – brightly-coloured vapes in a variety of attractive flavours, such as strawberry ice cream, watermelon and gummy bears – in fact, every flavour you can think of and they are not expensive to buy.

“It is a worrying trend that something that was designed to help smokers quit has now become something that our young people are using,” said County Cllr Whittam.

Read more: Fire at Preston waste plant caused by battery inside a discarded vape

The Conservative politician had secured the debate by bringing a notice of motion calling on the county council to write to the government offering Lancashire’s support for a recently-announced crackdown on “unscrupulous businesses targeting young people with vaping products” – and backing the announcement of a review of the rules around the issuing of on-the-spot fines for the illegal sale of vapes, in order to make it easier to hand them out.  The maximum penalty for the unlawful sale of vapes to under-18s is currently £2,500.

While the motion won cross-party support, Labour’s John Fillis said that it risked merely “blowing smoke at the issue”.

Calling for a £100,000 boost to the enforcement capacity of Lancashire Trading Standards, County

Cllr Fillis said: “We have a great department…who have demonstrated time and time again their ability to enforce the law.  Let’s back them up…because in the long term, it’s going to cost the health of our young people far more than that £100,000.”

Cabinet member for finance Alan Vincent said that he was not opposed to extra investment, but would have to determine whether it was “necessary” – in terms of staffing levels – before committing such a sum.

County Cllr Fillis withdrew the specific amount from his suggested amendment and instead called simply for “extra funding to be considered” for a campaign by trading standards to tackle illegal vapes sales, which was accepted by the ruling Tory group.

Cabinet member for health and wellbeing Michael Green said that the authority had already been enhancing its messaging to young people about the dangers of vaping and would continue to do so.    He branded the products “modern-day alcopops”.

“Disposable vapes have thus far been the most problematic – and these are the most common types of vape which are smoked by our young people, with seven in 10 [of them] in Lancashire preferring this type of vape. [They] are attractive, with bright colours, fruity flavours and their pocket money prices.

“Whilst the balance of evidence does suggest that existing adult smokers should switch from cigarettes to vapes, it is clearly important that we do everything that we can to reduce both vaping and smoking in children and young people,” said County Cllr Green.

Read more: Tributes to the late county council chairman Keith Iddon

In the recent Action on Smoking and Health Smokefree GB Youth Survey of 11 to 17-year-olds, two out of five young people said they smoke vapes “just to give it a try” and aroundt one in five because “other people use them, so I join in”.

A loophole that permits the vaping industry to give free samples of its products to children in England is set to be closed under plans announced by the Prime Minister back in May to help clamp down on youth vaping.

Rishi Sunak said at the time that he was “deeply concerned about the sharp rise in kids vaping – and shocked by reports of illicit vapes containing lead getting into the hands of school children”.

He added:  “Our new illicit vape enforcement squad – backed by £3 million – is on the case, but clearly there is more to do. The marketing and the illegal sales of vapes to children is completely unacceptable and I will do everything in my power to end this practice for good.”

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